5/23/2015 Shertz to Hondo Texas.

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I am leaving the Texas hill country into the prairie. I am climbing slowly, and it is a big relief to me to be mvoing out of the humid tropic climate.

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My rear tube blew out again. The valve stem seperated from the tube! It is easier for me to repair the rear wheel by taking off the front wheel, as it lifts the rear wheel off the ground and I can slide it out easier! Sure a lot easier than laying the bike on it’s side. Another good reason to have a center stand.

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On inspection, the Schwalbe tire was developing a slit where the rim met the tire, just like the other one. I have been watching the pressure, what the heck? Could I have gotten two defective ones? Is my use so extrememe that the Schwalbe can’t take it? I have no spare tires… What to do?

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I did the only thing I could. I put a new tube in the old tire, inflated it to 40psi and avoiding bumps rode seventeen miles to the nearest Wal Mart for a new tire and tube.

Major thunderstorms were rolling in by the time I was done shopping. The manager wuld not let me set up a tent in the WalMart grass- “liability” so I rode off in the rain to find the closest field.

I got the tent set up, dancing and swatting off mosquitoes and the rain began in earnest. My phone was flashing flood alert warnings as the gods of lightning and thunder showed their firepower. The rain was roaring down on the thin piece of nylon that was supposed to keep me dry, the fly. It was failing, and water was running into my tent. Soon the floor of my tent was soaked. THen there was a loud whistle, and a train added it’s ground shaking rumble to the din of thunder and rain. I had camped very close to a train track!

My air mattress kept me out of the water. The mosquitoes were having a feast. I lay my towel underneath it, and woke often from a fitful sleep to wring it out. I am so glad that night is over!

5/21&22, 2015, Stoneham to Shertz Texas.

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It’s a 10 mile ride into San Antonio, and I’m pretty stoked to be this far. It’s now 1900 miles since I left home. After San Antonio, I am told I will start climbing “the mesa,” and that it’s a long slow climb. I am looking forward to higher altitudes, cooler temperatures, and less biting insects.

I was trying to keep the watt burn below 350 watts an hour, but the continuous rolling hills here led me to adopt a different riding style. Now I pick up speed going downhills and tap the mode button as I ascend to add boost to keep up the momentum. It’s a lot more fun! I’m just not worried about watt burn any more. The bike with it’s big batteries and big chargers sucks up the amps, and there are tons of places to charge. So I burn ’em more freely.

I used to be always looking at how full my battery gas tank was. Now I glance at it about as often as you look at the gas tank in your car. I always have plenty of chances to fill the tank. In fact, the tank hasn’t gotten much below half yet.

I keep learning things every day. For example, each day I fill my 5 gallon water bladder at the end of the day so I can shower and rinse out my clothes. Today I was filling it at a convenience store bathroom faucet and noticed the water was hot! Duh, get hot water! Tonight my shower was much warmer than usual!

My big find of the day: Two twentys and two tens! What luck! Lots of cars had driven past it. Has anyone got a good moral for this story, like, “it pays to be slow”?

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I wanted to camp in the Bastrop National Forest but the Pine Bark Beetle got there first:

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One thing that has left a lasting impression is how much money there is in oil, what a big part of the economy it is, and how it leaves wastelands behind. I took this picture from an otherwise idyllic gravel road.

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The back roads of Texas are lovely.

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Here’s another place to charge!

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Camping in flowers!

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5/20/2015 Sour Lake to Stoneham Texas

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It has been a while since I wrote. I decided to stay an extra day in the hotel to rest and work on the bike and my camping gear. There is a sporting goods store nearby and
the timing seemed right. I especially had to repair a missing window in the fly of my tent, and replace my smelly shoes with open sandals.

Then Leslie called me and said that if I wanted to come visit her in Maintou Springs the time must be now, as she didn’t want to wait another week. So I said “I’ll leave today”. I rented a car and stored my bike and drove to Colorado to see her. I returned to Texas with Leslie and she took a bus for home. My ride resumes.

Leslie and I in “Garden of the Gods” Manitou Springs, Colorado.

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Sour Lake is not sour at all. It is a very sweet little town with intersting neighbors- little oil wells. It’s kinda like house, house, house, oil well, house, oil well, house, house, house.

The librarian suggested I camp in a storage shed on library property. I rigged up a shower, pitched my tent inside, and was completely ready for the storm that never came.

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These little oil wells are everywhere.

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This one was drilled in 1957, at which time it produced 25 barrels of oil each day. By 1957 production had dropped to 4.5 barrels of oil a day. In 2000 it was producing 2.1 barrels of oil each day. In 2010 it was producing 1 barrel of oil a day. The income from one little oil well like this would be a comfortable retirement!

The weather is very overcast. There is an El Nino weather pattern and I ride all day in grey dodging thunderstorms and showers. Visibility for autos is low in heavy rain and so I keep off the road. I am getting tired of it and long for sunshine.

I camp in a cemetary tonight. The grass is long, the flowers faded, the road rutted. It’s very peaceful here and I feel like a welcomed guest. One cemetary resident reminds me as I visit his grave “The only difference between your condition and mine is a few short years- and they go by fast.” I do basic bike maintenance, wash clothes and cook a good dinner. It is so humid that I sleep without my bag and take a second shower in the morning. All is good.

5-12-2015 Merryville LA to Beaumont Texas

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I wake up feeling good. The sky is grey with clouds but it is not raining. Charley, the cyclist that was going to meet me in Austin, for whom I was slowing down, cannot make the trip right now due to medical issues, so I decide to ride more quickly. I ride 60 miles by 10:30AM.

I cross over into Texas! Yay! My body has many bug bites, even behind my ears, and I’m looking forward to camping in dryer climes.

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In Silsbee Texas my rear wheel starts feeling wobbly. A brake is rubbing. I check and there are two broken spokes. I must get this repaired, as soon as possible. Google tells me the closest bike shop is in Beaumont, 26 miles south, out of my way. I call and they do have a spoke cutting machine. I head off down the four lane at 22 mph, a little aprehensive with my wobbly wheel.

I arrive at the Kick Stand bike store and am greeted by Bhavani- pronunced Vivani- who wonders how I got there so fast, and tells me her husband, who is the wheel expert, has left to run errands so he could be there when I arrived, which they figured would be hours from now. She allows me to take my bike apart in the store, and we enjoy talking.

When Tom arrives, we get cutting. He cuts and I replace the spokes in the wheel. The shop closes at 6:00, and as Tom is truing my wheel, I move my bike out in front of the shop for assembly, so they can go home.

Then it starts to pour. There are flash flood warnings on the news. It is almost dark. My bike is in pieces in front of the store. I am confident things will work out, I just don’t know how yet. And then Tom offers to drive me and my bike to a hotel, which I happily accept. A bike store customer then offers to let me stay at his house! See, things always work out! I can’t begin to tell you how often this sort of thing happens!

Tom negotiates the lowest rate for me at the hotel, by telling the receptionist about my adventure. Then we sneak the bike and all it’s parts past the receptionist by using a side door, nabbing cookies on the way. I am exhausted and have a lot of work to do. I am really glad to have met Tom, and feel like I have a new friend.

It’s been another one of those roller coaster rides of good things and bad things.

5-11-2015 Oberlin to Merryville

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It is raining in the morning. I chug along, trying not to smell my feet! My shoes and socks and feet have developed a strong odor. I have been trying to ignore it, but it follows me everywhere! Wet shoes and wool socks and hot feet make bacteria very happy. I need to get some open sandals to ride in.

The back wheel feels wobbly and the brake is dragggin so I pull over and look…. I am afraid that I will see- Broken Spokes. Criminee, not again… Two. Must repair, there is no procrastinating, the wheel could collapse. I find an old church that is now a community center with a covered front porch, and take my bike apart.

I decide to buy all new spokes and respoke the wheel when I can. This is happening way too often and I am running out of spare spokes.

A traveling cyclists tells me about Merryville, the last town in Louisiana before Texas, where the historical society has a museum that allows cyclists to camp on their grounds. Wow! I arrive there, call a number, and Elene Shows up with the lock code for the hot showers and a cabin to sleep in! Wow!

At the library I meet Sam, an old timer. He talks to me about farming and cycling and wants to know why I shave my head and what I eat when I am camping. I tell him that I always have some sardines to eat in a pinch. He wrinkles his nose, then says; “You should carry a trap, and put the sardines in the trap. Then you could catch a possum and eat him instead”. He keeps a straight face for a second and I stare at him intently. He smiles and I burst out laughing! He invites me over for dinner.

Log cabin at the Merriville Historical Society

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5-10-2015 Simmesport LA to Oberlin LA.

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It’s fascinating to me how similiar the electronic sounds of today are to the ancient calls of birds and insects. Sometimes in nature it sounds like I am in a sea of electronic noisemakers. Probably the noises that these things make are a physical requirement of their similar sizes, but maybe it’s the sounds of the laws of the universe leaking out from behind.

This morning I get stuck riding gravel roads and after a dozen miles I am greatly relieved to emerge onto asphalt. And then I am in a land of perfect homes with perfect lawns. A sign reads “Welcome to Plattsville. No loud noises or littering or we will fine you. We mean it.”

I am impressed. Everything is tidy and orderly. I stop at the convenience store. The proprieter, a handsome woman, greets customers by name. Everyone seems happy, and pleasant. The whole feeling becomes erie, like The Stepford Wives….

The feeling of Plattsville.
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The farmers are out plowing their fields. I look at the prices of their equipment in a magazine. A lot of the stuff costs more than a house. I have a great respect for the hard work and financial commitment of these men.

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I’ll probably cross into Texas tomorrow!

5/09/2015 Baker to Simmesport, LA.

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My friend Charley wants to ride his electric bike with me. We will meet in Austin, Texas. Problem is, I can get there in four days, but it will take him seven. So I slow down. In that very moment of surrender, this modest little moving assemblage of camp and bike and battery and food became home to me. I’m not destination bound, I’m just living at home, doing what my home does.

Our sense of scent can be developed by paying attention to it. Every inhale is different; here is water, here is flower and water and dirt, here is rot and pine, here is cigarette and pollen. Have you ever watched a dog smile as he sat there, sniffing the wind?

I am cycling along the banks of the Mississippi river. On this side of the river, there are 50 foot levies which the cows look heroic on:

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On the other side of the levies are the occasional fish camps. You have got to be bold to own a building there, as the mighty Mississippi has risen almost high enough to overflow these levys.

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When I was cycling back to Baker to get a new phone, I saw this man pushing a shopping cart on the other side of the four lane highway. Today, as I was cycling I saw him on the same highway perhaps seven miles down the road. His name is Mike, he served 24 years in the Air Force. He is now a traveling evangelist, and wants everyone to know that Jesus will take care of you. Just this morning Jesus gave him three $100 bills. As I said goodbye, Jesus gave him a peach.

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Entomology or Avian alert!! Can anyone identify the creature that makes these lovely mud tubes? That’s my finger for size.

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The farms are mostly growing sugar cane and corn. This area used to flood when the Mississippi rose, and the soil here is rich. By the roadside rests an abandoned processing facility.

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To top off an extraordinary day, I find a glowing field of waving grass surrounded by trees to camp within. It’s deep down forgotten roads in the flood plain of the Mississippi in the beautiful state of Louisiana. It’s so remote only dreams can find it.

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Dinner’s on!

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Tangipatto LA, to Baker, LA.

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What a day of ups and downs! I stopped at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library and saw that there wasn’t an outdoor plug for my bicycle. I spoke to Jan, a librarian, and she asked Geralyn, the manager, if I could bring my bike inside. “Sure” said Geralyn, “bring it in, we have a room for it.”

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I love Southern Hospitality and politeness! So I had a large office all to myself. But Jan and Geralyn were curious, and began quizzing me about my journey. They decided it was newsworthy, and called the local TV station WBRZ, who sent over Chris Sassser to film and interview me! Apparantly I was on the evening news!

With that feather in my cap I set off. After about 50 miles the dark clouds I had been watching drew closer. I reached for my phone to check out weather radar- but it was gone, it had fallen from my basket. No phone! What to do? Ride back and look? Order another from Amazon and send it a few days ahead general delivery? But then I would lose my number. So I decided to find the closest Cricket wireless dealer, ride there, get a new phone and keep my number. But how to find a Cricket dealer?

Up ahead was a 1 car garage sized post office. I explained my dilema to the young woman, and she invited me into the back to research on the internet where the closest Cricket dealer was. There were none ahead for a few days. But just 28 miles back the way I had just come was the town of Baker with a Cricket dealer. As I was deciding to ride back, the skies opened up. I got on my rain gear and headed back- the dealer closed at 9:00PM- it should be easy.

I had gone about sixteen miles along a busy four lane highway in the pouring rain when there was a loud KaaaaBluueee. My rear tire had blown out! I had no choice but to walk my bike for about a half mile along the busy highway to try and find a place to repair it. I found the machine shop of Ryan. I asked if I could change my tire in his yard and he said sure.

It was then that I discovered that my rear tire had a big slit in it, and was not repairable. I don’t carry a spare tire, this has never happened to me before. So I asked Ryan if there was a junk bike lying around that I could nab the tire from. Instead, he offered to drive me to Wal Mart, about 15 miles round trip. He refused gas money.

Thanks to Ryan I got my bike running and set off into the dusk. And then my bike stopped running. By higgling and twiggling and a lot of pedalling I made it to the Cricket dealer- just as they were locking up. But, they opened for me, got me set up, and then posed for pictures with me- “in case I was famous someday.”

There was a hotel a block down the road and I checked in for the night, exhausted. So here I have spent the day, working on my bike. I put the good Schwalbe tire in the back, and the cheap Wal Mart tire in the front. I opened up the batteries and found a broken sensor wire and repaired it, and balanced that battery. I rewired a DPDT switch, and found a broken wire that was causing the bike to stall. Tomorrow I will ride again.

By the way, the neighborhood is 95% black and I am loving it! It is wonderful to see such different faces and body types than I am used to. I walked miles today to Wal Mart for a soldering gun, and to the chiropractor. I have only experienced kindness and friendliness. For example, at Wal Mart, an elderly retired fighter pilot led me around the unfamiliar store to help me locate my shopping items. Another gentleman, at my request, graciously gave me a lift for three miles. You’ve got to put your friendly on when you travel!

5-6-2015 Poplarville Mississippi to Tangipatto, Louisana

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5-6-2015 108 miles

Spent last night camping up in the pines. I am good at camping, and i enjoy it a lot, from the cold shower to the simple food, to the star and firefly gazing, to the peaceful sleeping.

The country is rolling, wooded, and very lovely. The roads are a mixed bag, some treats and some lemons.

These have been nerve wracking cycling days in Mississippi and Louisiana because the secondary roads have no places for bicycles. My 6″ on the right of the white line is punched with vibration divots. The traffic has been heavy with logging trucks and the ubiquitous full size pickup. I have had to keep a very sharp focus on my surroundings. I have pulled off the road onto the gravel and dirt shoulders many times when I see “the perfect storm” forming. What is the perfect storm? There is a logging truck coming up behind you and a semi coming the other way. The two trucks and your bicycle are in synch to be three abreast on a two lane road. What do you do? Yield. Get off the road, now.

Soon I am in Louisiana.

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I want one, think I’ll build a solar one to cruise the intercostal back in Florida. Most waterways have these “shantyboats”, often with a colorful character or two on deck.

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I’ve been dodging logging trucks all morning and this is why, this is what keeps Bogalusa alive, a pulp and paper plant.

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Here is the now madatory picture of Sherpa charging whilst I visit the public library in Bogalusa!
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This is very low swampy country and I reject half a dozen muddy boggy potential campsites. Finally I find an acceptable spot, but the mosquitoes bounce off the mesh of my tent like ping pong balls. I can’t cook outside. It’s OK, I’m ready for this. The little buggers don’t like citrus spray and I do, and I have plenty to snack on for dinner.

5-5-2015 Mobile Alabama to Poplarville, Mississippi

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So I drove back up to Mobile Alabama, where I left off, and started again.

In my shop I removed the old BMS. It was sophisticated, with it’s bluetooth communication system and programmability, but with that came frustrating complications for me, like not letting the bike charge.

I rebuilt the cell array into two separate batteries with two BMS’s. I also upgraded the chargers to two Mean Well chargers, as one of my two generic Chinese chargers had already failed on me. Now I have a simpler but more robust battery system. I am so thankful that the Green Axle batteries are modular, as the rebuild didn’t waste any cells.

The Mean Well chargers are wired in parallel and can dump 20 amps of current into the batteries. This makes for very fast charge times. You can just about hear the power flowing into the batteries like gas into a tank!

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Leaving Alabama going into Mississippi. (I love spelling Mississippi!)

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Inform the Pope, this is the Miracle on Highway 29! It is a pair of girls socks! And they were only 100 yards apart! For those of you who don’t cycle tour, this is the holy grail. Touring cyclists the world over talk in hushed tones about why they never find two gloves, two shoes, two socks. Touring cyclists like to use things they find on the road. It makes the tour more fun, and provides a change of clothes! The question always is, as you ride past the singular glove, should I stop and pick it up? Is the mate ahead somewhere? But years of road wisdom cause us to shrug our shoulders and keep on riding. The mate is almost never there.

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Here is yet another picture of my bike charging up, this time at a high school sports center. With a modicum of ingenuity, charging is NOT an issue. I am going to keep posting pics like this till everyone accepts this and is bored with the subject.